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Video: New clinic the first of its kind to offer fertility services in the North

Patients no longer have to travel hours to have simple tests done

One in six to one in seven couples have trouble getting pregnant. 

After years of patient requests, a letter-writing campaign and applications of two local doctors with support from colleagues, the NEO Women's Health Network fertility clinic has opened in Sudbury. 

It is the first of 50 clinics in Ontario located in and serving the Northeast.

Patients have been pleased with the office on Regent Street, on account of its accessibility, ambiance and free parking, said Dr. Jennifer Jocko, who began practicing obstetrics and gynecology in Sudbury in 2014. 

"We moved from a very small office that was meant for one,” she said. “We were sharing that space, it was very cramped. This office, we've received accolades from patients and the like about how beautiful it is, and how relaxing it is.”

Readers can take a look around the clinic and get to know Jocko in the video, above.

According to Jocko, the clinic was the result of conversations with colleagues and clinic partner Dr. Karen Splinter over the course of many years. Jocko and Splinter began looking for office space around three years ago and applied to the Ontario Fertility Program last year. 

"It had been a passion of ours, Dr. Jocko and I,” said Splinter, chief in the Health Sciences North obstetrics department and the section chair at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine for women's health.

“For the last few years, we saw patients travelling extensive amounts back and forth trying to get these tests done.”

Prior to offering cycle monitoring and IUI services in Sudbury, as the clinic now provides, fertility treatment patients would travel hours to Toronto for tests that could take only minutes. Sometimes women would travel all that way only to have tests that had already been completed in the north repeated in the south. 

The Northern Health Travel Grant helps patients going back and forth, but it doesn't pay all the costs, just part. 

Now, NEO Women's Health Network has a partnership agreement with another clinic in Toronto so that results can be shared. 

"It's kind of nice to have one-stop shopping for women, and that's our ultimate goal," Jocko said.  

Services offered at NEO Women's Health Network include the diagnostic investigations needed to determine if there are any underlying health issues to explain why a couple aren't getting pregnant, cycle monitoring, bloodwork and ultrasounds. Intrauterine inseminations (IUI) and monitoring may also be done at the clinic. 

Presently, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is not available, but a partnership exists with a clinic in the south so that when northern residents need IVF, some of the tests can be done closer to home.  

The two doctors would like to see if the Ontario Fertility Program will designate IVF cycles to the clinic. 

"We don't do IVF here, we're sending people still with co-ordinated clinics down in Toronto,” Splinter said.

IVF labs are centralized and the undertaking can be expensive, but Splinter is hoping a local lab might eventually be extended to the region.  

"It's certainly been a labour of love and a longstanding thing, but we're almost there, so we're pretty excited," Splinter said.

The NEO Women's Health Network opened at 1596 Regent St. in January and a grand opening is expected to happen sometime before year's end.


Allana McDougall

About the Author: Allana McDougall

Allana McDougall is a new media reporter at Northern Life.
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